The Financial Burden of Further Education

Proud parents all over the UK are celebrating another record year of achievements in exams in 2011.  For many such parents, the latest exam results will secure places for their children at university.  Some may have concerns, however, about meeting the costs of further education and protecting their children from incurring student debts.

Some parents, especially single parents whose children live with their ex spouse or ex partner, may think that their obligation to pay child support will cease when their child reaches 18 years whether or not they go on to further education.  That is not the case.  Both parents could potentially be responsible for "alimenting" (providing financial support to) their child until his or her 25th birthday if they are studying at university or college.

How much, if anything, should a parent pay to their student child?  There is no formula to guide parents in this situation.  The CSA will not make an assessment and their guidelines in relation to children under 18 are not applicable in such circumstances.  The legal test is based on balancing the "needs" and "resources" of the parent and the child.

I would suggest that most students would struggle to show that they "needed" luxury accommodation, a new car (or perhaps even an old banger) or a budget to cover seven nights per week of socialising.  A modest amount may be ample to help a student who is working part time to cover some of their own costs.  Parents who provide accommodation or other support may be indirectly meeting their obligation of aliment where that responsibility exists.  There are a range of factors which should be taken into account.  If you are a parent who is in any doubt as to whether you owe an obligation of aliment to your child or would like advice about how much to pay, please contact me or one of my colleagues in the Family Law Team at Simpson & Marwick.